Nation roundup for October 29
$59.7M paid in PSU abuse cases
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Penn State said Monday it is paying $59.7 million to 26 young men over claims of child sexual abuse at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a man once revered as a university icon who is now serving what is effectively a life prison sentence.
Nearly two years after the retired coach was first charged with child molestation, the school said 23 deals were fully signed and three were agreements in principle. It did not disclose the names of the recipients.
The school faces six other claims, and the university says it believes some of those do not have merit while others may produce settlements.
University president Rodney Erickson issued a statement calling the announcement a step forward for victims and the school.
“We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State,” said Erickson, who announced the day Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 that Penn State was determined to compensate his victims.
Jackson doctor released from jail
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson’s doctor was quietly freed from jail on Monday, two years after he was convicted of killing the pop superstar with an overdose of a powerful anesthetic — and he would like to practice medicine again.
Conrad Murray was released at 12:01 a.m. from a jail in downtown Los Angeles after serving about half of his maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter. A change in California law allowed his incarceration time to be significantly reduced.
Murray was taken from the jail a back way, eluding a cluster of TV crews and a few Jackson fans. Sheriff’s officials arranged the quiet exit and drove him away for safety reasons, spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
“He was elated to be out of there” and planned to spend time with his girlfriend and children, said Valerie Wass, Murray’s attorney.
Murray’s prospects are uncertain: At age 60 his license to practice medicine has been suspended or revoked in three states.
S&P 500 closes at all-time high
NEW YORK (AP) — It was another record day for stocks, but barely.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed at an all-time high Monday, but by a small margin. The S&P 500 edged up 2.34 points, or 0.1 percent, to a record 1,762.11 after good news from J.C. Penney offset disappointing earnings from a few U.S. companies.
J.C. Penney rose the most in the index after the retailer’s CEO said sales were improving. That helped stocks overcome poor earnings and a weak forecast from drugmaker Merck.
Roper Industries, a medical and industrial equipment manufacturer, also lowered its earnings estimate for the year.
The S&P 500 has performed well in October, closing at an all-time high six times. A deal in Washington that ended a partial government shutdown and kept the U.S. government from defaulting on its debt has helped drive up the index.
Companies also have managed to increase earnings, even with mediocre growth in the economy, helping lift the S&P 500.
Earnings in the third quarter are expected to rise by about 4.5 percent from a year ago at S&P 500 companies, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. While that is the slowest growth in a year, companies are still beating the estimates of Wall Street analysts. About two-thirds of the companies that have published earnings so far have exceeded expectations.
“Earnings are beating a low bar,” said Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at BlackRock.
In other trading, the Dow Jones industrial average edged down 1.35 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 15,568.93. The Nasdaq composite closed down 3.23 points, or 0.1 percent, at 3,940.13.
J.C. Penney, which is trying to recover from a botched corporate makeover led by its former CEO, rose 60 cents, or 8.8 percent, to $7.39. The stock is still down 63 percent this year.
Merck fell $1.19, or 2.6 percent, to $45.35 after reporting that its third-quarter profit plunged 35 percent. Roper Industries fell $8.78, or 2.6 percent, to $124.26 after the company’s earnings fell short of estimates. Roper also cut its earnings forecast.
Homebuilder stocks dropped after the number of Americans who signed contracts to buy previously occupied homes fell in September to the lowest level in nine months, reflecting higher mortgage rates and home prices. D.R. Horton dropped 11 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $19.66. KB Home fell 22 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $17.68.
Stocks have been supported this year by economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve. This week investors will get more insight into the Fed’s thinking.
Analysts don’t expect to see any big changes come out of a meeting of Fed policymakers this week. The central bank will release a statement on Wednesday afternoon after its meeting finishes.
The Fed is currently buying $85 billion in bonds every month to help keep long-term interest rates low and to encourage borrowing, spending and hiring.
“The Fed is not likely to surprise the markets at this week’s meeting, by any means,” said Michael Sheldon, the Chief Market Strategist at RDM Financial. “For now, it’s steady as she goes.”
The 16-day partial government shutdown that ended earlier this month likely curtailed economic growth in the fourth quarter. Also, many government agencies stopped publishing economic reports during the shutdown, making it harder for policymakers to get a clear picture of the economy.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.52 percent from 2.51 percent.
In commodities trading, the price of gold edged down 30 cents to close at $1,352.20 an ounce. Oil rose 83 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $98.68 a barrel.
Among other stocks making big moves:
— Bristol-Myers Squibb rose $3.25, or 6.7 percent, to $52.02 after the company reported positive results from an early-stage study of its cancer drug nivolumab.
— Burger King rose $1.14, or 5.8 percent, to $20.90. The hamburger chain’s third-quarter profit surged because it cut expenses.
— CF Industries gained $8.74, or 4.2 percent, to $218.36 after the company agreed to sell its phosphate business to the fertilizer producer Mosaic.
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